When one thinks of what the Miami Dolphins have done in the offseason, many minds jump to the team adding two quarterbacks. There is a great deal of anxious anticipation surrounding head coach Brian Flores’ final call in deciding between 15-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and second-year QB Josh Rosen.
At some level, I’m tired of seeing Fitzpatrick this, Rosen that. It’s white noise at the QB position for me right now. Most writers are over analyzing the situation. Yes, it’s finally great to hear of a competition at the position (that is at least a decade too late), but at the end of the day, a starter will be chosen and the Dolphins’ unpredictable season will be under way.
While we’ll have to address it here today, there are other things the organization and fans should be looking for in preseason too. Things that will hopefully roll over to the regular season and make Sunday’s a little more happy.
1. Miami needs Punter Matt Haack to stay consistent and increase his averages
Miami punted at least six times or more in half of its games last season. Despite having a 4-4 record in those games, third-year P Haack was all over the place when it came to yards per punt. Granted, field position changes how far a punter can punt, but in 2018 Haack ranged all of his punts per game between 34.00-53.75.
When his numbers come in at the low 30’s, some panic should set off because that’s just his average in the game. Haack’s average by year increased just 0.08 between 2017-18 from 44.52 to 44.64. Looking at the Dolphins’ 31st ranked 2018 offense, Miami relied on Haack heavily and it looks as though he had a little difficulty raising his average and getting balls where he and the team ideally wanted.
If the Dolphins can get Haack a little more confidence punting, his consistency will increase, likely leading to a higher increase in yards-per-punt (YPP). With tougher field position for opponents, Miami will likely force more three-and-outs, turnovers and drive-ending plays.
2. The Dolphins have defensive depth
For the first time in a long time I finally feel like Miami won’t lose its entire season if a guy goes down on defense. Flores has been forthcoming about his shuffle of the defensive unit and I support his thought process.
Instead of placing guys just where they’re known for, moving them to play in different positions puts the best defensive players out there at a time regardless of listed position. Some would argue this is a “tank” approach and the coaching staff is here to see who would be an asset for the team in the future, but I disagree.
Players are going to come out and play no matter what negative noise surrounds them or the team. This defense isn’t going to throw away games. They’re going to work together to figure out (hopefully quickly) what works well and who works well together.
“I’m not going to let anybody create a mindset for this team or for anybody on this team. I feel like if we work hard, we do what we have to do, we grind and we bring it every day, if we put our best foot forward, we’ll reap what we sow,” defensive tackle Christian Wilkins said. “That’s the one thing about the outside world – they don’t know what’s going on in here. I’m not putting any predictions or any wild expectations on us. The most important thing to me is that I bring it every day and that the guys on this team bring it every day.”
I also like having the reassurance that starters from seasons past, who are still fully capable of being a starter, are in as backups. This goes along the lines of “next man up”, and instead of a backup, you truly have a capable starter. The most notable include: safeties Minkah Fitzpatrick and T.J. McDonald, defensive tackle Akeem Spence and defensive end Jonathan Woodard.
3. Who should earn the starting QB job?
Here, I can’t bring too much new to light that hasn’t already been reported on; I can just frankly give my opinion. With R. Fitzpatrick named the preseason starter, I feel it’s important to watch what he does well in comparison with Rosen. R. Fitzpatrick definitely has his field IQ to work on when it comes to interceptions, forced passes and the short ball, so I feel if he can show positive consistency in those three categories throughout preseason he’s a lock for the job. Thankfully, he’ll still have the outlet of his favored deep balls to Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills. However, those won’t work all the time, showing a possible increase in forced passes and interceptions.
If R. Fitzpatrick makes a start for the Dolphins (which we all know he will, barring a serious injury) he will have started for one-fourth of the NFL’s teams. On the other hand, we don’t know much about Rosen; we just know we saved him from a west coast dumpster fire. Comparing a veteran and a second-year starter without a true fair chance as a rookie is comparing apples to oranges, in my opinion. We don’t want a comparison, we want to know which will be the leader that gets Miami a season that finally isn’t overall painful.
Now, if Rosen comes out here and outplays R. Fitzpatrick in these categories and is better performer overall, especially when it comes to leading scoring drives and running successful snaps, then it doesn’t matter how long R. Fitzpatrick has played in the NFL. He’s on his eighth team for a reason right? I think Rosen also has an accurate cannon at times (remember his two-play, 96-yard scoring drive in the Rose Bowl?) and does well buying time to make plays.
Regardless, there is no doubt in my mind that both will be the starter at some point in the season. I cannot possibly have serious solidified predictions at this point, so I say it doesn’t matter who gets the initial nod. Both of them know how to play football. Both of them know how to throw, score and make plays. I’ll have a different opinion, however, if it’s December and we can win the division and have had one QB the entire time. Until then, white noise.
With these three things to watch for in the Dolphins’ preseason, I believe Miami will begin putting a lot of different pieces to the puzzle together and finish 2-2.